Dialogue is one the quickest and most efficient ways of characterizing someone, whether in fiction or nonfiction. A few back and forth lines of conversation can illuminate character very quickly. Dialogue can consist of short verbal exchanges woven into a character sketch or scene, or it can take the form of an entire conversation, which is one of the strategies I discuss in my Seattle writing classes. When constructing an entire scene around a dialogue, keep in mind the following points:
1) SET SCENE – Start with a paragraph which introduces the two people and describes their surroundings, relationship, etc. but doesn’t give away the outcome of the conversation. Where does it take place? What are the circumstances? Who are the speakers?
2) DIALOGUE FORM – Write the rest of the scene in dialogue form–meaning the back and forth of their conversation–he said, she said–with an occasional sentence describing a gesture or tone of voice. Giving the blow by blow of a conversation shows how someone interacts with others, demonstrates how he or she resolve conflicts, reaches consensus or simply blows up.
3) ADD GESTURES, BODY LANGUAGE, TONE TO INTERPRET DIALOGUE – Occasionally add gestures such as pointing, wrinkling a nose, clearing a throat or body language such as putting hands on hips or rolling eyes to add depth and richness to the dialogue scene. I will add more tips in my Seattle writing class.
For more on how to write dialogue, sign up for my upcoming writing classes at The Writer’s Workshop, including The Nature of Narrative.
The Writer’s Workshop